The House Next Door

( 39 )

Overview

An unparalleled picture of that vibrant but dark intersection where the Old and the New South collide.

Thirtysomething Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a charming, peaceful suburb of newly bustling Atlanta, Georgia. Life is made up of enjoyable work, long, lazy weekends, and the company of good neighbors. Then, to their shock, construction starts on the vacant lot next door, a wooded hillside they'd believed would always remain undeveloped. Disappointed by their diminished ...

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The House Next Door

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Overview

An unparalleled picture of that vibrant but dark intersection where the Old and the New South collide.

Thirtysomething Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a charming, peaceful suburb of newly bustling Atlanta, Georgia. Life is made up of enjoyable work, long, lazy weekends, and the company of good neighbors. Then, to their shock, construction starts on the vacant lot next door, a wooded hillside they'd believed would always remain undeveloped. Disappointed by their diminished privacy, Colquitt and Walter soon realize something more is wrong with the house next door. Surely the house can't be "haunted," yet it seems to destroy the goodness of every person who comes to live in it, until the entire heart of this friendly neighborhood threatens to be torn apart.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416553441
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 7/3/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 267,077
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.26 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons was born in a small railroad town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. She attended Auburn University and later joined the staff of Atlanta magazine. Her first novel, Heartbreak Hotel, a story of her college days at Auburn, was later made into a movie called Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy. Since then she has written fifteen more novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Recently, a movie version of her later novel The House Next Door was aired on LifeTime Network. Ms. Siddons now divides her time between Atlanta and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Claire Swanson from two doors up was the first one to tell me about the Harralson house. She and Roger have lived in the yellow Dutch colonial for years, far longer than we've been in ours. Claire is square, sturdy, and somehow comfortingly basic-looking — low to the ground, as she says herself. Built for stamina, not speed. Those solid hips, impervious to her regular tennis matches and her clockwork morning jogging expeditions around the little park that divides our street, have cradled and spawned three boys. Nice kids they are, in their middle and late teens. The whole street enjoys them and employs them regularly for yard work and the kind of nasty, heavy work you can't get anybody to do for you anymore. They do it cheerfully, coming in with a twang-thud of screened door for Cokes and midday sandwiches and to use the telephone.

"Hi, Colquitt," they'll say to me, looming large and rank-sweating from a morning of wrestling our ill-tempered old power mower up and down our terraced front yard. "You look like you're painted into those Levi's."

Since I have known them through broken arms and acne and sullen excursions to dancing classes, and since the Levi's do look painted on me, and I am proud that I still have the long, flat thighs to wear them, I don't mind the familiarities. I would mind them, very much, from almost any other boys their age. I am not a formal person, but I am rather private.

Claire and Roger are old money in the city, and the boys don't have to do the work. Their parents insist on it, however. In this very New South city, Walter and I have noticed that the Old South element of it clings to the substantial virtues of work, lack of ostentation, and a nearness to the earth that survives even in their manicured city neighborhoods.

"I don't see the point in all this plain down-hominess," a vivid, restless woman whose husband's nationally prominent corporation had just moved its headquarters here said to me once at a ballet guild meeting. She was in linear black linen and Elsa Peretti silver on a swimming August afternoon in Florence Pell's legendary back garden, a coutured raven in a field of sundresses and pants and espadrilles.

"I mean, what good does their money do them? I know they have it — my God, Carl says some of them could buy and sell Fairfield County. But I haven't seen live-in servants or a driver since I left New York. They keep going to Europe, for God's sake, if they go anywhere at all. They don't have boats. If they have summer places, they're down on that God-forsaken, potty little island you all are so insane over. I haven't seen one single piece of fantastic jewelry. They send their kids to Emory; can you name me one kid in this town who goes to Harvard or Yale or Vassar? They go to the grocery store. When they go out at night it's to that mausoleum of a club. Why have it if you don't have any fun with it?"

I suppose she felt free to say it to me because she knew Walter and I are not natives. And we certainly are not in the same financial league with some of our friends. But we are of them precisely because we understand the way they choose to live. It is our way too; we find grace and substance, a satisfying symmetry and a kind of roundness to it. We like our lives and our possessions to run smoothly. Chaos, violence, disorder, mindlessness all upset us. They do not frighten us, precisely, because we are aware of them. We watch the news, we are active in our own brand of rather liberal politics. We know we have built a shell for ourselves, but we have worked hard for the means to do it; we have chosen it. Surely we have the right to do that.

At any rate, Claire and Roger Swanson are a satisfying unit in our world, and have been good friends to us ever since we moved here. So when I stopped the car at the mailbox on my way home from work that afternoon a couple of years ago — I hadn't left the agency then — and Claire hailed me from midway down the street where she was walking Buzzy, their elderly Schnauzer, I didn't walk halfway to meet her, as I would have with some of the neighbors to whom we are not so close. I shouted, "Come on to the backyard and let's have a sundowner. Walter's working late. Bring Buzzy."

"I have some news you're just going to hate," she said when she had leashed Buzzy to the leg of the wrought-iron table on our patio and had taken a long, grateful gulp of the bull shot I'd brought her. "Mmmm, that's good. You make good drinks. Roger says you're the only woman in town whose drinks don't give him diarrhea the next morning."

"Walter made me learn before we got married. It was one of the conditions. Living well is the best revenge — old Spanish proverb or something. What am I going to hate? Don't tell me... Eloise is pregnant again."

Eloise Jennings, in the gray Cape Cod across from us and catty-cornered across from the Swansons, had four children under the age of eight, two in diapers, and a front yard full of Day-Glo-colored plastic tricycles and wading pools and swing sets. They were whining, unattractive children who terrorized neighborhood pets and were apt to materialize in your kitchen uninvited, fingers in noses, looking into your refrigerator. Walter and I are very fond of some children, but not across the board, not as a species. No one on the street was very fond of the Jennings children. Or, if the truth were known, of the Jenningses. The house was his family home; they had been substantial people who had died and left the house to Semmes Jennings before we came. He was a broker downtown, and a posturing bully. Eloise had been his secretary.

"Probably," Claire said, licking salt off her upper lip. "But that's not it. The McIntyre lot's been sold and they're going to build a house on it."

"Oh, shit!" I wailed. I don't say that often, not like some of our friends, to whom casual obscenity is a not-uncharming habit. It's not that I disapprove; I just don't say it much. But this warranted a hearty "shit."

"Isn't it awful? I knew you'd hate it worse than anybody." Claire did not look sympathetic; one of the things I find amusing about her is a totally unmalicious malice. Besides, the McIntyre lot was not next door to her. It separated our house from the Guthries' to the left, and I have always loved it.

It is a peculiar lot, shaped like a narrow wedge of pie, broadest in back and tapering to a point at the street. It has — or did have — a steep ridge running like a spine down its length, thick with hardwoods and honeysuckle and tall old wild rhododendron. It is a shallow lot, stopping about on a line with our back patio, and a creek runs through it parallel to the street, bisecting it neatly into two halves. The same creek winds through our front yard and dips under the street, through a culvert, to reemerge in the small park that divides the street. Because of its narrowness and lack of depth, because of the ridge and creek, we had always been sure that no one could figure out how to put a house on it. Indeed, it had been up for sale at the same time our house was, and we had not bought it primarily because everyone on the street assured us that architect after architect had surveyed the site and pronounced it impossible to fit a house onto comfortably.

It had remained unsold. In our midtown neighborhood it was an oasis of wild, dark greenness, luminous in the spring with white dogwood and honeysuckle and rhododendron blooms, giving one the feeling of being cloistered away in a mountain retreat even though our street is only a block off one of the city's main thoroughfares. Our bedroom windows overlooked it and so did the unused upstairs bedroom that I planned to make into an office when I left the agency. Downstairs, the kitchen and breakfast room looked out into its lacy bulk through prized old French doors. Outside, our patio faced it. The places, in short, where we lived, where we spent most of our time. Though the Guthries were just on the other side of the ridge, I could and did move freely and without constraint in that end of the house in my nightclothes, or in nothing, if I chose. I have a rather shameful penchant for that. I like the feeling of air on my body. I loved the sturdy chuckle of the creek, the nearness of the woods, the squirrels and birds and chipmunks and occasional possums and raccoons that skittered and shambled there. Virginia and Charles Guthrie loved the lot, I knew, for the same reasons we did. They are, as are most of us on this street, people who treasure space and greenness and privacy. The lot was a buffer, a grace note. Any house there, any house at all, no matter how well done, would stare directly into the core of our living. No matter how careful the architect, trees would have to go.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "There've been a million rumors about houses going up there since we've been here, and none of them came to anything. Everybody says it's just not possible to build on it. Martin Sawyer, he's that very good architect who's Walter's tennis partner, he said it couldn't be done. Who told you? There's not a realtor's sign. We heard old Mrs. McIntyre took it off the market when it didn't sell, back when we moved in."

"Old Mrs. McIntyre has gone to her reward, whatever grim thing that might be," Claire said. "Her daughter in Mobile put it on the market. In fact, daughter sold it directly to somebody she knows here. And I know about it because whoever handled it at the bank told Roger about it."

Roger will probably be the next president of the third-largest bank in the city; at forty-eight he's been executive vice-president for eight years. His grandfather was president. His uncle is chairman of the board. Roger would know.

"Well, that doesn't mean they'll be able to build on it. You know what the architects say."

"There's one that says otherwise. Roger didn't believe it either, so he checked it out, and he says there are plans, sketches, elevations, the whole schmeer, already done. He says it can be done; he's seen the plans. The architect is some young hotshot right out of one of those eastern architecture schools; he's out to put us all in House Beautiful. It's very contemporary, from what Roger can tell, really a pretty good-looking house, if you like that kind of thing. I know you don't, but I've often thought that all that open space and light and stuff... Well, anyway, up it's going, and pretty soon too. The people are anxious to get into it."

"Oh, Claire, oh, damn. That's going to mean bulldozers and chain saws and red dust and red mud and men all over the place — they'll have to doze it. They'll have to take down trees... Who are the people, do you know?"

"No. Except that they're a very young couple, and her daddy gave her the lot and house for a baby present. Yep. Pregnant and with a rich daddy. I do know that she calls him Buddy and he calls her Pie. Roger got that from whoever handled the closing."

"Sweet God. Buddy and Pie and bulldozers and baby makes three. You know, I'd almost think about moving. I really would."

"No." Claire's broad, tanned face was serious; the gentle malice was gone. "This house and this street is right for you and Walter, Colquitt. You fit here like you were meant to be here — from the very first you did. You...enhance it for us, for Roger and me especially. Hang some curtains and start wearing clothes... oh, yes, I know you run around naked as a jaybird in there. I'm not going to tell you how I know, either. I'd do it myself if I didn't have three adolescent sex maniacs and old man Birdsong next door and did have a body as good as yours. Hang some curtains and grit your teeth, and meanwhile give me another drink, and then I've got to go home. You might even like the house, and I suppose it's barely possible that you might like Buddy and Pie. God! But even if you don't, it's not worth moving. It's only a house."

After she left I finished off the watery bull shot in the pitcher and went upstairs, a trifle giddy with vodka and dismay, and took a shower. The bathroom that connects our bedroom with the room destined to be my office is large and airy, and the woods from the McIntyre lot, together with the ferns I've hung in the bank of high old windows, give the room an undulating, greenish, underwater light that I've always loved. It makes me feel like a mermaid, wet and sinuous and preening in her own element. There had never been curtains; we had never needed them. Those rooms looked straight into treetops. "I'll hate whatever curtains I put up," I thought, toweling myself. "No matter if they're Porthault and cost the earth, I'll hate them."

I put on white slacks and a tee shirt and went, barefoot, down to the kitchen and started a salad. We'd have it with the half of the crab quiche I'd made for Sunday brunch, which I'd frozen. I put a bottle of Chablis into the freezer, made a mental note to myself to take it out in half an hour, and then, on impulse, stuck a couple of glasses in the freezer and mixed a pitcher of martinis from the Russian vodka Walter had brought home — smooth, silky, lovely stuff. Why not. Why not, indeed? It's Friday. Weekend coming up. Long, lazy, golden weekend. We'll drink to that.

"We're drinkin', my friend, to the end..."

Aren't you the lugubrious one, though, Mrs. Colquitt Hastings Kennedy, sozzling martinis and weeping over a piece of ground that doesn't even belong to you, I told myself. But it does, I said back. It's more mine than it will ever be theirs, these dreadful, faceless Buddy and Pie people and their awful, faceless baby. I looked out the kitchen window at the piece of ground that did not belong to me, settling itself into the fast-deepening green darkness that seemed to well up from the very earth of it. My mini-mountain.

The headlights of the Mercedes swung across the kitchen and stopped, and went out. I heard the nice, solid thunk of its door closing and went out onto the back porch, cats eeling around my ankles, to meet Walter.

He would not yet have heard about the house next door.

Copyright © 1978 by Anne Rivers Siddons

Copyright renewed © 2006 by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Walter and Colquitt Kennedy love their neighborhood, with its genteel parties, friendly neighbors and the great view out their windows. But then the Harralsons buy the beautiful empty lot next door and hire the young, incredibly talented Kim Dougherty to build their dream house. At first the Kennedy's bemoan the loss of their lovely view, but soon strike up a friendship with their new neighbors and an even closer relationship with Kim. And then the mysterious mishaps begin. They start small, missing pets, strangely butchered wildlife, but soon the tragedies escalate. At the Harralson's first housewarming party, the new house receives full town approval and glowing reviews, but Kim detects something wrong, "there's something in this house I didn't put here. I can feel it, I can hear it talking to me, but I can't understand what it's saying." At first, Colquitt's mind balks at the idea of a "haunted house," but she cannot ignore the growing number of tragedies associated with it. It is as if the house preys on its inhabitants' weaknesses and slowly destroys the goodness in them, ultimately driving them to disgrace, madness, and even death. As the house's influence grows and begins to extend to its closest neighbors, Colquitt and Walter find themselves caught up in a desperate struggle to keep their sanity and marriage intact. Desperate to find some means of warning each successive family that moves in before it's too late, the Kennedys risk losing their friendships, their happiness, perhaps even their very existence, to the mysterious force that is tearing their neighborhood apart.Topics for Discussion
1. How does the house drive the Kennedystoward madness? What is it that enables them to resist for so long? In the end, do they defeat the house, or does it defeat them?

2. Why is it so hard for the Kennedy's to warn the town and even their closest friends? How do their attempts backfire? When Claire is finally convinced of the house's danger, why won't she help Colquitt?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    A Harrowing Haunted House Story

    WOW! It's been many years since I've read a novel as chilling and as disturbing as this one! Siddons' haunted house tale, originally published in 1978, remains as timeless today as if it had been published yesterday. I had heard of the author for some time, but it wasn't until quite recently that I heard one of her earlier works, The House Next Door, was a frightening, psychological thriller. Boy, was that ever on the mark! The prologue packs a wallop, and from there on out the book's initially slow, methodical pace picks up speed before galloping toward its unbelievably horrific conclusion! I've read thousands of novels, most of them horror, but this older work of Siddons' has catapulted itself to the top of my favorites list for its unrelenting infusion of madness and horror in what should have been a peaceful, idyllic neighborhood. You MUST read this book!!!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Great spooky story

    This is one of my favorite books and I was thrilled to find it available for Nook! Lifetime movies made a movie based on the book and it was pretty good too.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    AWESOME

    His book is a good book!!!!!!!
    If you want somthing enterresting, read this book!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Excellent!

    It has all the flavor of Siddon but with an underlying sense of disquiet

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Really Good

    I really liked this book. I had seen the movie first and just had to read the book it was based on. The only thing is that I wish the ending had been a little clearer in telling what happened to Walter and Colquitt. This was a very good and easy read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2009

    Easy Read

    This book is well written. I can appreciate the humor; it brings back fond memories!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2002

    Read This Great Book!

    I could not put this book down until I finished it! Twists and turns keep you guessing all the time, a wonderful suspense book that both my husband and I enjoyed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    A book you truly can't put down

    Hated finishing this wonderful book. It is different than any other Ann Rivers Siddons book Ive read before. Haunting. As in all her books the characters grab you right from the first. Makes you feel that you want to be friends with them. I just ordered two more of her older books. Please write more like this.......

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

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  • Posted October 1, 2013

    This book keeps you guessing, A must read!

    I really enjoyed this book. It keeps you guessing, almost to the end. The characters are great! I love the neighborhood feel and the neighbors.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Wow

    I am a voracious reader and I have been all my life. I love a good book and I was blown away by The House Next Door. I started and finished it on a Saturday afternoon ... I literally could not put it down. I was astonished at its original publication date: first because I had not come across it sooner, and second because of its timeless quality. It is a beautifully written "scary" story and so much more!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    ..a little too much fantasy

    I've enjoyed many of Anne Rivers Siddon's books; however, this one I would not recommend - unless the reader enjoys and lot of mystery and fantasy.

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    One of my favorite authors

    reads like a stephen king novel. Not sure I like that or not, but a good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Too much

    detail about everyone's lives and not enough about the house.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2005

    Too many loose ends

    A nice easy read, but not as scary as I had hoped it would be. It was more creepy and wierd than frightening. The only downfall was that there were so many loose ends left like there needed to be a few more chapters to really wrap up the story. A little disappointing...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2003

    A Must Read For Summer

    I just started reading this book. I am at the part in the book when the Harrelson's have a 'let's meet the neighbors' party. I can't stop reading this book. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good summer read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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